LinuxWorld 2008 Prediction #4: Linux and the desktop

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Podcast of LinuxWorld 2008 Prediction #4

Although I’ve previously published the slides for the talk I gave at LinuxWorld 2008 in San Francisco, I thought it might be useful to add some additional comments in the blog about each of the eight predictions I made. This is not the full text of what I said nor a full discussion of the slide, but just some ideas that flesh out what I meant. The full one hour video of the keynote talk is now available at the conference website.

Slide made of prediction at LinuxWorld 2008

The video that ZDNet published from my talk was about this prediction. No, I did not bang my shoe on the table, if you know that reference.

Will we go from asking “What desktop do you use?” to “How do you collaborate with others?”?

I pointed out my personal journey in the last six months from using Windows and Linux, to just Linux, to Linux and the Mac, all the time being able to do all the work necessary for my IBM job, albeit using some applications still in beta form.

What has enabled me to do this is three or four business applications that have been ported to different platforms, but then extensive use of open source like Firefox, WordPress, Python, PHP, and Komodo. works across platforms as well. I spend well more than half of my working day working with information and services through a browser. For my personal email, I use GMail, an example of cloud computing.

When I move from “desktop” to “desktop” the most important thing is how I can access my information. If I can access my email and documents for work, and my music for fun, I’m all set.

People have or want devices like the iPhone so that they can get work done anywhere, even if they can’t connect their laptops to wifi. This and other new devices likely won’t be the only way they connect with others and with information, but they will rise in importance.

It was in this section that I told the audience that Linux should stop copying Windows circa 2001 and rather look at what Apple is doing these days around usability and design. I understand that to gain acceptance for new software it makes it easier for users if you mimic the behavior of the old software, but at some time you need to step out and innovate in the user interface.

This “innovation” might just be driving maximum consistency in look-and-feel. I want to at least feel that the system is held together by well engineered common design principles and APIs rather than aging string and bubble gum.

Open source projects like WordPress have attracted excellent graphic designers to build themes and skins. We need more graphic designers involved with open source. We need to build more software so that others can make it look great.

There are certainly many in the general open source community who understand this and are working toward this goal. Thanks to Aaron Seigo for his note about the work being done in KDE.

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